Effects of increasing level of supplemental barley on forage intake, digestibility, and ruminal fermentation in steers fed medium-quality grass hay.
ABSTRACT Objectives of this research were to evaluate effects of increasing level of barley supplementation on forage intake, digestibility, and ruminal fermentation in beef steers fed medium-quality forage. Four crossbred ruminally cannulated steers (average initial BW = 200 +/- 10 kg) were used in a 4 x 4 Latin square design. Chopped (5 cm) grass hay (10% CP) was offered ad libitum with one of four supplements. Supplements included 0, 0.8, 1.6, or 2.4 kg of barley (DM basis) and were fed in two equal portions at 0700 and 1600. Supplements were fed at levels to provide for equal intake of supplemental protein with the addition of soybean meal. Forage intake (kg and g/kg BW) decreased linearly (P < 0.01), and total intake increased linearly (P < 0.03) with increasing level of barley supplementation. Digestible OM intake (g/kg BW) increased linearly (P < 0.01) with increasing level of barley supplementation; however, the majority of this response was observed with 0.8 kg of barley supplementation. Treatments had only minor effects on ruminal pH, with decreases occurring at 15 h after feeding in steers receiving 2.4 kg of barley supplementation. Total-tract digestibility of DM, OM, NDF, and CP were increased (P < 0.04) with barley supplementation; however, ADF digestibility was decreased by 1.6 and 2.4 kg of barley supplementation compared with controls. Ruminal ammonia concentrations decreased linearly (P < 0.01) at 1 through 15 h after feeding. Total ruminal VFA concentrations were not altered by dietary treatments. Ruminal proportions of acetate and butyrate decreased (P < 0.10) in response to supplementation. Rate, lag, and extent (72 h) of in situ forage degradability were unaffected by treatment. Generally, these data are interpreted to indicate that increasing levels of barley supplementation decrease forage intake, increase DM, OM, and NDF digestibility, and indicate alteration of the ruminal environment and fermentation patterns.